March 2nd, 2009
01:23 PM ET
14 years ago

GOP chairman says he leads party, not Rush Limbaugh

[cnn-photo-caption image= caption=" Steele says he is the leader of the GOP."]WASHINGTON (CNN) - Republican Party Chairman Michael Steele is taking issue with the notion that Rush Limbaugh is the de facto leader of the GOP, calling the conservative radio talk show host an entertainer whose comments can be ugly.

Steele, chairman of the Republican National Committee, said in an interview with CNN that he, rather than Limbaugh, is "the de facto leader of the Republican Party."

And Steele described Limbaugh as a performer.

"Rush Limbaugh is an entertainer. Rush Limbaugh's whole thing is entertainment," Steele said. "Yes, it is incendiary. Yes, it is ugly."

Last month, Steele, a former lieutenant governor of Maryland, was elected chair of the RNC. He is the first African-American to lead the Republican Party. At the time of his election, Steele said that "Rush will say what Rush has to say; we'll do what we have to do."

Steele made his latest comments regarding Limbaugh on CNN's "D.L. Hughley Breaks the News," which aired this weekend. The Steele interview was taped before Limbaugh's appearance before the Conservative Political Action Conference, an annual meeting of conservatives from across the nation.

Limbaugh brought a cheering crowd to its feet several times as he called on fellow conservatives to take back the country.

He used his self-described "first national address," which ran more than an hour longer than his allotted 20 minutes, to accuse President Barack Obama of inspiring fear in Americans in order to push a liberal agenda of "big government."

Limbaugh also backed up comments he made earlier this year in which he said he hoped Obama fails.

"What is so strange about being honest and saying I want Barack Obama to fail if his mission is to restructure and re-form this country so that capitalism and individual liberty are not its foundation?"

But a top Republican in Congress disagreed.

"I don't think anyone wants anything to fail right now," House Republican Whip Eric Cantor said on ABC's "This Week." "We have such challenges. What we need to do is we need to put forth solutions to the problems that real families are facing today."

RNC spokesman Alex Conant on Monday did not directly address Steele's comments about Limbaugh but pointed out the back and forth between the White House and the conservative radio host.

"Rahm Emanuel and the Democrats know they lose an argument with the Republican Party on substance so they are building straw men to attack and distract," he said. "The feud between radio host Rush and Rahm makes great political theater, but it is a sideshow to the important work going on in Washington.

"RNC Chairman Michael Steele and elected Republicans are focused on fighting for reform and winning elections. The Democrats' problem is that the American people are growing skeptical of the massive government spending being pushed by congressional leaders like [House Speaker] Nancy Pelosi," Conant said.

A spokesman for Limbaugh said the radio host did not have an immediate response, but added he would likely address Steele's comments Monday on his nationally syndicated radio program.

Filed under: Rush Limbaugh
soundoff (1,100 Responses)
  1. Joe

    Rush needs to pop a couple of his favorite pills and mellow out.

    March 2, 2009 12:38 pm at 12:38 pm |
  2. roland

    I'm glad finally someone speack before Rush causes more pain to the party.

    March 2, 2009 12:38 pm at 12:38 pm |
  3. WeThePeopleOfVA

    The only people recognizing Limbaugh as the leader of the GOP are the Democrats and Liberal Media. If Limbaugh leads the GOP, then Pelosi, Read, Frank and Dodd are in charge of the Demsocrats. It's all propaganda . . . wake up America.

    March 2, 2009 12:38 pm at 12:38 pm |
  4. Jason

    If he's just an entertainer why give him a keynote speech at CPAC?

    March 2, 2009 12:38 pm at 12:38 pm |
  5. david

    Limbaugh is a traitor to this country and a self absorbed pig.

    March 2, 2009 12:38 pm at 12:38 pm |
  6. RushisRight

    Much better than tax us into oblivion and lead us to socialism Obama. Given a choice, I will take Limbaugh any day.

    Thank you Obama for the Change in the stock market, your wisdom has sent it below 7000! Goodie! I Hope you are booted soon! Thats Change I can believe in!

    March 2, 2009 12:38 pm at 12:38 pm |
  7. Chas in Iowa

    Just because you say it's so,...doesn't mean it is so.

    Unfortunetely I believe most of the party is following dopey.

    March 2, 2009 12:38 pm at 12:38 pm |
  8. jb

    You are so right Had It. This guy setting himself up as the opposite of Limbaugh/Rove/Coulter is really crafty and you are intelligent enough to see thru this puppet. I really love the way you think, could you post some more.

    March 2, 2009 12:38 pm at 12:38 pm |
  9. Big Ed

    Either way, the Republican Party is in a deep, dark hole.

    March 2, 2009 12:38 pm at 12:38 pm |
  10. Jim

    Limbaugh is dangerously unpatriotic.

    March 2, 2009 12:39 pm at 12:39 pm |
  11. mel

    the leaders of the GOP may be trying to cleverly craft their image by electing steele, but the actual party members have made clear their choice: the racist, bigoted, misogynist, anti-american one-man lynch mob that is limbaugh. i gave his speech a fair shot. when he called the entire democratic party "the enemy," his status as a traitor was secured.

    March 2, 2009 12:39 pm at 12:39 pm |
  12. uncle Tom

    LOL!!! He really believes hes the face of that party. ILMAO!! okay in 2010 when he doesnt succeed in bringing over blacks and latinos, he will be on the outside lookin in again.

    March 2, 2009 12:39 pm at 12:39 pm |
  13. yuri

    Voila! Steele has contemplated stealin' our hearts by almost lickin' Limbaugh hollow, for starters. We did watch Limbaugh's loud lashes like lightning strikes at the liberals, but number quotin' was naive, and nihilistically negative. Frankly, a chill crawled up on our spines when a large gathering was clamoring at everything he simply muttered aloud, like a cult figure.

    March 2, 2009 12:39 pm at 12:39 pm |
  14. BC

    The GOP had better do something real to distance themselves from people like Limbaugh and the extreme right wing or they will continue to have normal Americans desert their party and find a new home with the Democrats. Not only are normal Americans not overly interested in protecting the rights of rapists' unborn children or owning a machine gun, but they are getting sick of the mean spirited attitude of the right wing.

    March 2, 2009 12:39 pm at 12:39 pm |
  15. Patty in CA

    Like one is better than the other?????

    March 2, 2009 12:39 pm at 12:39 pm |
  16. Curious George

    I'm curious- that suddenly the GOP chairman is an African American. Would this be the case if the new president was Caucasian? Just like the GOP response to President Obama's speech was given by a man of color. Is the GOP trying to portray a new image with new puppets? But in reality it is still the same GOB network oops.. I mean GOP network. Hmm... Just curious!!!!

    March 2, 2009 12:39 pm at 12:39 pm |
  17. if you ask me....

    Rush Limbaugh a leader? PUL-EASE. I love the direction Mr. Steele is leading the Party. I'm not interested in following Rush down the tubes. LEAD ON, Mr. Steele.

    March 2, 2009 12:39 pm at 12:39 pm |
  18. David S.

    Well this ticks me off. At least Rush has the courage to depict the evils of the Obama socialist agenda. We are in a war for our country where the Democrats are attempting to infuse government control into every aspect of our lives. Michale needs to recharge conservatism into what it is supposed to be not what Bush and his neocons morphed it into.

    March 2, 2009 12:39 pm at 12:39 pm |
  19. Kim

    Wait for it... Michael Steele groveling apology to Rush Limbaugh...3.. .2...1...

    March 2, 2009 12:39 pm at 12:39 pm |
  20. Russ

    Limbaugh leads. This steele guy is a joke.

    March 2, 2009 12:39 pm at 12:39 pm |
  21. TT

    Steele is just a smoke screen he does not run anything he is
    running in it. Just another face, but we already know who is
    running the side show!

    March 2, 2009 12:39 pm at 12:39 pm |
  22. turn the other cheek

    Who cares about any of them. They are all evil anyway. I will never cease to pray for OUR PRESIDENT and his family.

    March 2, 2009 12:39 pm at 12:39 pm |
  23. Pete from austin , Tx.

    Steele you may think that you're the head of the republican party but the biggest cheers and applause went to people like Limbaugh and Coulter. You invited those people to the party and now you have to dance with them. Anyone that paid attention to CPAC see's the mindset of the members and it's is downright scairy. It is party first and the heck with anything else. You may be citizens but you're not Americans.

    March 2, 2009 12:39 pm at 12:39 pm |
  24. john

    Now you'll have to go apologize on his radio show like that other spineless congressman...

    March 2, 2009 12:39 pm at 12:39 pm |
  25. JWMII

    awwwwwwwwwwwwww Michael Steele actually thinks he is running things in the GOP. Man, he has been duped!!!!!

    NEWSFLASH MICHAEL STEELE: All they needed was your face just to combat the notion of GOP ethnic/racial homogeny in light of significant social events involving the election of a black president.

    March 2, 2009 12:39 pm at 12:39 pm |
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